Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fried rice two ways

Whenever John and I made too much rice, we used to stupidly throw away the leftover bits at the bottom of the pot. Now we save them up for fried rice, which must be cooked with cold rice or it comes out mushy. Fried rice is beautiful — it's quick, delicious, colorful and can be made with whatever meat or vegetables you've got.

First up is Mandarin fried rice, adapted from Grace Young's Breath of a Wok. This dish uses lap xuong, the sweet, fatty Chinese sausage found in any Asian grocery. Lap xuong evokes major childhood nostalgia for me. My grandmother sliced it, fried it up and served it to me over sticky rice, the hot fragrant grease sinking through the rice to permeate every grain. As an adult, I noticed that the second ingredient is pork fat. To save our arteries, I bought the "extra lean" kind.

1. Thinly slice 1 Chinese sausage. Mince a few cloves of garlic and an equal amount of ginger. Slice 2-3 scallions thinly.

2. Beat 2 eggs. Heat a wok until smoking, then swirl in 1 T. peanut oil and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Tip in the eggs and tilt the wok so that the eggs cover the surface as thinly as possible to make a pancake. When the pancake is just set, turn it onto a cutting board and slice it into shreds.

3. Reheat the wok with another T. of peanut oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the sausage and stir-fry 1 minute. Add the scallions and 2-3 cups of cold cooked rice, breaking up large chunks of rice. Add a splash of Shaoxing rice wine and stir-fry 2-3 minutes until heated through. Season with soy sauce and white pepper, add the egg shreds, and toss to combine. Feeds 2.

The second version is Thai basil fried rice, very loosely adapted from Kasma Loha-Unchit's recipe.

1. Cut 1/2 lb. chicken or pork into small pieces and sprinkle with fish sauce. Chop 6 cloves of garlic and 2 Thai chillis. Thinly slice 3-4 shallots.

2. Heat a wok until smoking and swirl in 1 T. peanut oil. Add the meat, leaving undisturbed for a minute to brown, then add the garlic, chillis and shallots. Stir-fry a couple minutes until meat is cooked and vegetables slightly browned.

3. Add 2-3 cups cold cooked rice and stir-fry until rice is softened and has begun to brown. Add 2 T. black soy sauce and toss to coat the rice. Season with fish sauce, then remove from heat, stir in a cup of Thai basil leaves and sprinkle liberally with white pepper. Serve with a wedge of lime. Feeds 2.

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